Nyja Richardson, 25, Content Creator
When I was two, my mom gave me my first globe. She said whatever country I say first, that’s where we’ll go. Ever since then, we would travel every year. Now, at age 25, I’ve been to more than 25 countries. She always told me that traveling is the best way to learn because you’re always adapting and you learn to appreciate other cultures, as well as your own.
My first school was called Afrikan People’s Action School. It was a school that celebrated Black children and culture. It was predominantly Black. We had to wear black, green, and red everyday.
We learned Swahili. We didn’t get off school for Christopher Columbus Day. Early on, we learned that Christopher Columbus was a murderer. All of that really sculpted how I thought about Black culture and just living in the United States.
We had to get in a unity circle every morning. We had to say “I’m a strong Black woman.”
And the boys would have to say “I am a strong Black man.”
This was at age three. It was super intense.
When I went to a white school, I had culture shock.
I would get into it with my teachers because they weren’t teaching us Black history. The only history that was associated with African-Americans was slavery. And I was like, “we have so much more.”
My grandmother, Mary Vaughn, was a Black Panther.
She became one because she lived through the curfews. There were curfews in place where cops would check to see if Black people were out after a certain time. There was also a lot of harassment from the KKK in Trenton.
My grandmother is a mixture of soft and hard. She didn’t take no mess but would welcome you into her home and you leave, figuratively and literally, full.
While I was at that school, I lived with her. She would talk to me about the Civil Rights Movement and how she went to the March on Washington. She met with the Black Panthers when they came to Trenton.
I learned about Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton. My grandmother taught me about Diane Nash. [Nash] was so beautiful. She was petite and quaint, like she couldn’t hurt a fly. But sis was powerful. For me, traveling is my self-care. I’m actually going to London on Monday.
Malcolm X famously said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
We are. When you travel outside the states, you can see how Black women are treated. We’re treated differently depending on what country you’re in.
In some places, they’ll ask to take pictures, they wanna touch my hair, it’s like an amazement or a fascination. Then other places, they love Black women. I don’t know if it’s genuine curiosity or fetishization.
Whenever I find myself traveling, people ask, “What are you doing here?” A lot of people ask ‘“What do you do? You must me very well off because you’re able to travel so often.” And no, I’m not ballin’ out of control. I budget. When I started traveling, I began to learn so much more about myself. I think every Black woman should travel solo at some point in their life. Traveling solo allows you to trust yourself and your instinct.
When I got pregnant at twenty-one, it was like my world shifted. And honestly, I don’t know where I’d be.
My son is my driving force.
My son is my driving force.
By bringing him with me when I travel, I’m hoping that he becomes a more empathetic person. I really think that traveling is the best way to learn outside of a classroom. He’s three and has friends in London and Australia. He facetimes them often. He’s just so aware, I feel like it’s because I had him travel at such a young age. He loves Chinese culture and knows some words in Mandarin.
He said he wanted to go to China.
It’s important to provide Black children with agency. Especially in a world where agency isn’t given to them.
So, I guess we’re going to China.